The NFL Draft is over and now every Fantasy Sports writer is hard at work redoing their rankings based on where everyone landed. Over the next few months, we are going to give you about 100 or more “sleeper” rookies or guys to “stash” on your bench. But, for the here and now, I want to look at my Top 10 guys and more importantly, who they affect the most on their respective teams, be it positive or negative. Let’s get started…

 

10

WR Calvin Ridley (ATL)

Ridley is one of only two WRs to make my Top 10, and I almost left him off entirely for Courtland Sutton, but Ridley’s situation appears to be better on paper then does Sutton’s. First and foremost, Ridley has the better QB, the better run game and the overall better team than Sutton. While Ridley’s situation is better, it is still less than ideal for the short-term as he will be competing for targets with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu.

Jones was sixth in total targets in the league with 149 and Sanu chipped in with 97. Ridley might have a hard time carving out a role in this offense — at least early on. Widely regarded as the most polished “NFL Ready” WR in this year’s draft, Ridley should be able to step in and contribute right away. Now, whether that contribution will be fantasy worthy in his first year remains to be seen, but his potential in this potent offense has him 10th on my rankings.

Who he affects the most: I honestly don’t think it affects either receiver very much, so if you are a Sanu or Jones owner, there is no need to panic. If anything, it may keep defenses a little more honest and as a result, the two receivers could see less double-teams and over the top coverage.

9

RB Sony Michel (NE)

Michel was easily in my Top 5 pre-draft, but when the Patriots took him with the second to last pick in the first round, his value dropped. The Patriots, well, Bill Belichick, is the king of situation football and Michel’s touches will be limited to “the best situation for him”. The Patriots are notorious for their use of running backs in the fantasy realm, and despite the relatively high pick for a running back by the Patriots, I don’t see Belichick changing his coaching style any time soon — it seems to be working for him.

Michel is a big running back and will likely slot into the LeGarrette Blount role from two seasons ago, but I would not expect the 18 TDs that Blount had that season. The Patriots still have Super Bowl hero James White, both of last year’s free agent acquisitions Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee, and this year’s free agent acquisition Jeremy Hill. That is the definition of a crowded backfield.

With that said, the Pats did use a first round pick on him, and in the process passed on QB Lamar Jackson with whom they were rumored to have interest as a future Tom Brady replacement. Michel will be in one of the most potent offenses, playing with the G.O.A.T himself Tom Brady and being coached by one of the best coaches to ever put on a headset. That has to be worth something, right? Yeah, No. 9 on my list.

Who he affects the most: If you are a proud owner of any of the Pats’ incumbent running backs, the water just got even murkier — if that’s even possible. I would have to guess that one of these RBs will eventually be cut or traded for a low-end draft pick in 2019, but as it stands now, I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting any of these running backs.

 

8

RB Kerryon Johnson (DET)

As far as draft stock goes, there isn’t a guy in my Top 10 that took a bigger leap than did Johnson. Previously ranked as my No. 13 rookie overall, Johnson takes a huge leap to number eight on my list. Johnson gives the Lions something they haven’t had since 2012, and that is a power running back. With running backs like Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, and Reggie Bush over the last few years they have consistently ranked in the bottom of the league in rushing yards.

Barring injury, Johnson should step right in and be the No. 1 running back in this offense. The Lions ranked sixth overall in passing yards last season but were dead last in the league in rushing yards and yards per carry. Though it’s not apples to apples, in 2017 Johnson averaged 4.9 yards per carry and totaled nearly 1400 yards on the ground. If you he can bring that type of success to the NFL, he will be a valuable asset to your Dynasty team.

Who he affects the most: I believe Theo Riddick will continue to be the passing down back but Ameer Abdullah will fall back to a backup role behind Johnson and, barring injury, will not see the field much. If you were counting on Abdullah as one of your Top 4 running backs you might want to look elsewhere.

7

WR D.J. Moore (CAR)

Moore is my top wide receiver in this year’s rookie class. While fellow rookie wide receiver Ridley may be more NFL ready and Sutton may have more upside, it is Moore who will get the most opportunities early on. The Panthers view him as a Steve Smith type wide receiver, and he should easily step right in as the No. 2 receiver on the team next to Devin Funchess. In fantasy football, opportunity always trumps talent. That’s not to say that Moore isn’t as talented as Ridley, but his opportunities could make him a fantasy relevant in his rookie season.

Who he affects the most:  If you are a Torrey Smith owner, his value likely takes the biggest hit. With a good camp and preseason, Moore should enter Week 1 at no worse than the third wide receiver on the team. Curtis Samuel was also a popular dynasty stash from last season but will now likely have very little value.

6

RB Nick Chubb (CLE)

Chubb’s fantasy draft stock took a little bit of a hit when the Browns selected him the second round, but it has nothing to do with talent — or at least not his talent. The Browns now own three talented runners with free-agent signee Carlos Hyde and incumbent passing down back Duke Johnson. It wouldn’t make sense to move Hyde after they just signed him to a big contract this offseason, and moving Johnson wouldn’t make a lot of sense because neither Chubb nor Hyde can fill the passing down role as well as Johnson.

This could turn into a “hot-hand” approach, which in fantasy football is worse than saying “running back by committee.” If you’re doing your rookie draft before the start of preseason, you may want to temper your expectations with Chubb, he still ranks in my Top 6, but he could have been Top 3 with a better landing spot.

Who he affects the most: Both Hyde and Johson will be affected but it is Hyde that will likely take the bigger hit in value. Johnson has been fantasy relevant over the last few seasons being a passing down/change of pace back and his role won’t change much. Hyde and Chubb will likely form a 1 and 1a situation, and barring an injury, will limit each other’s value. If you are a Carlos Hyde owner, I would try to draft Chubb as his “handcuff” and hope that one of them comes out as the clear-cut No. 1 back before Week 1.

5

RB Royce Freeman (DEN)

The Broncos did well for themselves in this draft by first getting the consensus top defensive player Bradley Chubb, while also landing a Top 3 wide receiver in Courtland Sutton and a potential No. 1 RB in Royce Freeman. Devontae Booker became the default incumbent when the Broncos cut ties with C.J. Anderson, and Booker may get the first crack at the starting job, but let’s face it, he couldn’t unseat Anderson in his time with the team and the Broncos wouldn’t have drafted Freeman in the third round if they were happy with Booker.

Freeman is a boulder with legs, but a boulder that can make linebackers miss in the open field. He had 60 touchdowns in 51 games and rack up nearly 6,000 yards in his four years at Oregon. This Denver offense is much better than last years, at least on paper, and I think Freeman could put up double-digit touchdowns in his rookie season.

Who he affects the most: Obviously Booker’s dynasty value takes a huge hit with this pick. If you are a Booker owner, and you got excited when the Broncos cut Anderson, you are now probably equally disappointed that they drafted Freeman. Case Keenum and the passing game get a slight bump up in value as well if Freeman can supply a threat on the ground, that will only improve the passing game.

4

RB Rashaad Penny (SEA)

Maybe the most surprising landing spot was Rashaad Penny getting selected by the Seahawks in the first round pick when everyone thought they would go offensive line. Penny joins a team with no clear-cut starting RB. Chris Carson had a promising start to his rookie season last year before a season-ending injury, C.J. Prosise can’t stay healthy and J.D. McKissic is too small to be a featured back, leaving Penny as the likely Week 1 starter.

Pete Carroll has been quoted as saying he wants to get back to power football and running the ball, and Penny will be the beneficiary of that statement. The only thing I worry about, the Seahawks still have glaring needs on the offensive line and it remains to be seen if Penny will even have enough room to run.

Who he affects the most: Chris Carson was a popular dynasty stash last season and while he may still hold some value, he is not nearly as appealing as he was two weeks ago.

3

RB Ronald Jones II (TB)

 

Jones, much like the other backs in my Top 5, will come into a fantasy-friendly situation for him. The Bucs running back situation is less-than-stellar with 28-year-old Jacquizz Rodgers as their incumbent starter. Rodgers has been serviceable for the Bucs, but the Bucs are looking for more than “just serviceable”, and Jones fits that bill. Jones will be the favorite to win the starting position and while he may concede the passing down snaps to Rodgers, Jones will be the runner that they need to keep QB Jameis Winston from having to throw it too much. Jones took one of the biggest leaps up in my rankings based solely on his landing spot.

Who he affects the most: Obviously it kills any value that Rodgers had unless he can carve out a role as the passing down back. If Jones proves to be what the Bucs hope he is, he could also indirectly help Mike Evans rebound from a down year. If teams are forced to stack the box or at least respect the play-action, Evans could find himself open more often than he was last season when he was bracketed with a safety over the top quite often.

2

RB Derrius Guice (WAS)

Guice was a consensus Top 2 fantasy back before the draft, but with the way he fell in the actual NFL draft, it has a lot of people in the fantasy realm a little nervous to keep him at No. 2. I have no such reservations, however, as he is still my clear-cut No. 2 fantasy rookie running back. The Redskins were terrible last season on the ground and that forced Kirk Cousins and the offense to be one-dimensional, while also not allowing the defense time to rest. Not only did their running game rank 28th, but their 3.6 yards per carry was tied for the second lowest in the league. Their leading scorer on the ground wasn’t even a running back! QB Kirk Cousins accounted for four of the Redskins 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Enter Derrius Guice.

Over his last two season at LSU, he rushed for over 2,500 yards and 26 touchdowns. In 2016, he averaged a ridiculous 7.6 ypc on his way to 1,387 yards on a mere 187 rushing attempts. While his role in the passing game is limited, catching only 32 passes in three seasons at LSU, Guice is a special talent that instantly upgrades the running game for the Redskins. He will step into the lead back role right from the start, and though he will concede touches to Chris Thompson on passing downs, he could still get anywhere from 250-to-300 carries on the season, putting him in Kareem Hunt-to-LeSean McCoy territory in terms of carries. If you are lucky enough to own the 1.02 in your upcoming rookie draft, take Guice and don’t look back.

Who he affects the most: If you stashed Smamje Perine last season in hopes that he could become a lead back, he is nothing more than a hand-cuff now — and not a very good one. His value in dynasty, if you do not own Guice, is slim-to-none. Chris Thompson’s value will not change much, in fact, he is one of those players that may end up being more effective with fewer touches especially if he can stay healthy all season.

The presence of Guice will also boost all other skill positions on the offensive side of the ball. He will make Alex Smith’s play-action passing more effective and will keep the receivers from double-teams and bracket coverage.  And, the biggest sleeper in terms of affected value could be the Redskins defense. They have a few nice pieces on defense and if Guice can keep the defense on the sideline to rest, the Redskins defense could be much improved from a season ago.

1

RB Saquon Barkley (NYG)

Barkley was going to be the No. 1 pick regardless of where he landed, but landing with the Giants is more than ideal. Eli Manning, while not elite anymore, is still a competent QB. With a healthy game-breaker on the outside in Odell Beckham, Barkley won’t see those 8-man fronts a lot high draft pick RBs tend to see early in their careers. Barkley is by far the most complete back in this rookie class and could easily be a Top 10 overall pick in redraft leagues as well. He has no competition for the starting position and will easily be the favorite to lead all rookies in yards, total touches and touchdowns.

If you own the 1.01, that means you either made some really good trades or your team was bad last year. Whichever the case, Barkley is as close to a sure-thing as you can get from a rookie RB, and the fantasy community is as excited for him as they were for Zeke Elliot a few years — maybe more so.

Who he affects the most: Every current Giants’ running back, including Jonathan Stewart and Wayne Gallman. In fact, Barkley is such the complete back that he will rarely leave the field. Of course, the addition of Barkley also helps out Odel Beckham as he will see less double teams with Barkley in the backfield. I would expect a huge bounce-back season for Beckham.

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